A New Dawn was the very first book written for the new Expanded Universe (EU) once the old one was done away with by the Disney Empire Company. The only other materials that were canon at the time of its publication were Episodes I – VI and the Star Wars: The Clone Wars CGI television program. Most readers can go ahead and read this with minimal pre-existing knowledge about Star Wars. Being the first new EU book, this will be the story that sets the starting line for the rest of the new EU. The old EU had some really great things in it, like Grand Admiral Thrawn, but it also had some concepts that really needed to be put out to pasture, like The Crystal Star (the entire book of that name, not just the concept “Crystal Star”). While A New Dawn was not super-amazing, it did a good job of getting fans settled into this new Star Wars universe.
This book serves as a prequel to the show Star Wars: Rebels (which was unreleased at the time of the novel’s publication), taking place six years prior to the start of the show. Despite being the set up for a show aimed at children, this is not really a Young Adult book. There are various points when the characters have a few drinks in cantinas, there is a bit of flirting in a few chapters, and a few other adult-oriented themes pop up here and there. It is nothing so extreme that a youth could not read the book, they just do not seem to be the target audience. The key focus of this book is the chance meeting of Kanan Jarrus (alias Caleb Dume) and Hera Syndulla, two of the primary characters in Rebels.
Kanan was one of the few Jedi who managed to survive Order 66, being only a Padawan at the time. Since then he spent most of his life living under the radar to avoid Imperial attention. Hera is portrayed as a “mystery woman” in this book; she is introduced as trying to network with other individuals interested in rebelling against the Empire. Most of the other characters are fairly small, but one of note is Captain Rae Sloane, who appeared at a later point in her career in Star Wars: Aftermath (should have read this one first, in hindsight). Sloane is one of the more interesting characters in the book, a role she also fulfilled in the disappointing Aftermath novel; with two books featuring her, it would not be surprising if she makes more appearances in later EU installments.
In a book like this, the story itself is not the most important thing. Kanan and Hera’s characters are both explored very well in throughout the novel; readers get a good sense of where they have been, who they are, and where their motivations are likely to take them. Their stories and personalities are more fleshed out in Star Wars: Rebels but this book did a good job of initially setting them up. While this book is not spectacular, it does what it is supposed to do and was overall a good first read for leading us into the new EU.